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Your luggage can work for you, if you’re willing to pony up some extra cash.
Tech companies have managed to make a lot of products “smart” over the years, but not all of them make a whole lot of sense. Does a toaster need to be smart? Or a toothbrush? At this point, where does it end?
Your luggage, however, is an area worthy of some circuitry. While the odds are technically low, airlines still lose or misplace luggage on a regular basis. Smart luggage—though it may not prevent your bag from being misplaced or your phone from eventually dying—can still help keep your phone alive when you need it most and allow for location tracking.
Smart luggage is any piece of travel-worthy baggage imbued with electronics, charging ports, and Bluetooth. Most smart luggage brands can connect to your phone via an app where you can control things like digital locks and charging capabilities. Some models include tech that automatically detects its weight—quite useful when you’re planning an extended stay. To protect the delicate electronics inside, smart luggage is typically hard shell luggage.
What are the downsides of smart luggage?
Luggage tech does come at a price: While your typical carry-on might cost around $50, smart luggage usually comes in at $200 or more, depending on the size of the bag. If you’re concerned about security, then it’s important to note that smart bags aren’t infallible. When you add internet or Bluetooth connectivity to your smart luggage, you do introduce a chance that it could be hacked. It’s rare, but stranger things have happened.
While a fully equipped electronic suitcase does come in handy for charging your phone while waiting at your gate, it’s not always easy to get it there. Several reviews have noted how difficult it is to get certain brands of smart luggage past airport security. If you aren’t partial to regular TSA baggage checks while you’re rushing to catch a flight, be warned.
Compared to other smart suitcases, Away Travel’s smart luggage may win in the looks department. The company offers eight different colors, some limited edition collaborations (like this Despicable Me model), monogramming, and customizable stickers to decorate your bag with. Away luggage includes a combination lock to keep your valuables secure, as well as a built-in FAA compliant battery you can use to charge up to charge two devices simultaneously via USB. The battery has enough capacity to charge an iPhone five times and charges itself via micro USB.
Away’s models come in four different sizes: carry-on, a larger carry-on, medium, and large. Running anywhere from $225 to $295, Away has the lowest price point for smart luggage.
Raden’s luggage comes loaded with a built-in battery that can charge a phone up to four times, a scale integrated into its handle, and location awareness. Like Away’s luggage, the charger has two USB ports and charges via micro USB. What makes Raden luggage different is its handy companion iOS app that tracks where the case is (or where it’s been previously). The app also lets you monitor its battery level and check its exact weight.
Raden’s no-nonsense hard shell luggage comes in two sizes—a 22-inch carry-on and 28-inch checked bag—and in 12 and 10 different colors, respectively. The carry-on size costs $295 and the larger checked bag costs $395.
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If you really want your luggage to be smart, you should consider Bluesmart. In addition to a built-in charger, its luggage includes remote auto-locking capabilities, built-in weight sensors, and global GPS location tracking. If you have a tendency to be forgetful, you can use its companion app for distance alerts, ensuring you don’t forget a bag at home or at security. The app can also provide trip-planning features, making it a sort of one-stop mobile hub for your travels.
Bluesmart currently has its second generation luggage available for pre-order on Indiegogo, but it’s not cheap. You can order a laptop bag ($250), 22-inch cabin bag ($345), or 29-inch checked bag ($395), with expected shipping in December this year.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
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Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.